Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Blessing of Totato Soup

It's Thanksgiving Day, and our hearts and minds fly to friends and family who are gathering today to feast and celebrate. I love Thanksgiving; even with all of the food prep it is essentially a lazy day. There is no big agenda. The goal is to be. And to be together.

Of course, here in Mexico it's a regular day. The kids are at school and Kraig is giving exams. I went grocery shopping this morning and the laundry is running. It's hard to believe it is Thanksgiving when one looks out on green trees and grass. There's a nip in the air, but that's as close as it will get to cold. I'm glad it's not blatantly obvious what we're missing, but at the same time, I am thankful that we're looking forward to a gathering on Saturday with our friends from Ajijic. There will be turkey and green beans, and I'm bringing pumpkin pie. I found real whipping cream this morning, which I would say is the icing on the cake, but that's a misplaced idiom for this. It's the whipped cream for the pie--literally and figuratively.

Yesterday my sister Jessie who lives in Singapore wrote about the joy of being invited. Even though in some ways it's easy to forget these American holidays when one is in another country, there is still a longing. It is a longing for place and family, but it is also a longing for gathering, particularly with like-minded folks. We can always reach out and bring them into our homes, and as Jess put it, we do that. We were raised to do that. But when someone else turns and says, "Please come, " it means a ton. So we were warmed when Blair and Barb said, "Would you like to come? We don't make a big deal about Thanksgiving, but we like to have something with friends."

When I think of the blessing of gathering it is always associated with food. The best gatherings have food that brightens the eye as well as feeds the stomach. Good food encourages conversation. It can also be said that good food is best when shared. Every time I tell the kids I'm making a certain family favorite, there first question is, "Is someone coming for dinner?" They've already made the association. I wish I answered in the affirmative more often.

There was no question, though, that the first time I was able to make Totato Soup* here in Guadalajara we were going to have guests. For one thing, one pot of Totato Soup can feed a small army (or in this case, our family of five and our Ajijic friends who have four kids, three of them teenagers). For another, it is a melding of flavors that accomplishes everything I have stated good food should do. It is a pleasure to share it.

(yes, it really is that red)
I had to wait for our shipment to make the soup because my big pot was in the shipment. In the waiting time I scoped out stores to be sure I had all of the ingredients. Some items were easy to come by: a chicken, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and canned tomatoes. I had a rosemary plant and thyme, so no need to search for those herbs. Small white potatoes are a staple here; almost as flavorful as Yukon golds. Other ingredients were a little trickier to come by. Sausage here, chorizo, has little variation. In the States I use breakfast sausage with sage for the soup, but here there is basically one kind of sausage and it all has red coloring so cooks up to look rather fiery. It's flavor is not unpleasant, but it is distinctive. I found decent frozen corn at Costco (a lot of corn here is field corn, so tough). I haven't discovered chicken stock or broth in cartons (I expect if I did it would be too expensive), and I didn't have time to make some, so I went with dry bouillon which is available here by the bag.
powdered chicken bouillon

Once I got my pot it was a matter of putting the ingredients together and setting a date for the feast. I was a little apprehensive that it wouldn't taste right--I hadn't been able to find loose sage ahead of time, and I just wasn't sure whether the sausage would be right. But the magic of the recipe worked. The aroma of the bubbling soup filled the apartment and taste-tests freed me from anxiety. I shared some with Rosa our cleaning lady because I couldn't wait to spread its wealth. Our friends came and by the time they left the pot was lightened considerably. And best of all, it had been enjoyed along with good conversation.

I'm already plotting my next pot and am figuring out with whom we will share it. The blessing of Totato Soup has come to Guadalajara.
"papas blancas cambray"
*My Michigan friends can attest to the power of Totato Soup which originated, of course, with the Rabbit Room. They have tolerated my love of all things Rabbit because of blessings like Totato Soup. I can't take any credit for creating it. Hutchmoot chef, Lewis Graham, got the idea for it after reading the first book of The Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson. Lewis made the soup, and knew it was made to be given to others, so he shared the recipe:

I cooked the chicken in my crockpot this time
One 3 to 5 lb. bag of the small Yukon gold potatoes, sometimes called butter potatoes.

Two boxes of Kitchen Basics chicken stock.

One package Jimmy Dean sausage with sage.

One whole chicken, already roasted at your local store (or baked at home).

Three ears fresh corn (or one bag frozen corn), two whole carrots, three stalks celery, two medium yellow onions.

One large can of whole, peeled tomatoes (or two small cans diced tomatoes).

Fresh garlic, dried thyme, sprig of fresh Rosemary, two dried bay leaves, kosher salt, cracked black pepper, and a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes.

Directions (in Lewis Graham's words):
1. Two or three glugs of good olive oil in Dutch oven. Make warm, add sausage. When the sausage is done, remove from pan but save the grease.

2. Cut potatoes in half, and rub well with sea salt (About one tablespoon is plenty for the batch). Heat the saved grease up in the pot, add potatoes. Let them sit awhile, frying the skins a little.

3. When potato skins have browned a little, add fresh veggies, chopped up of course. Cook them a little; when the onions are translucent and celery pliable, add chicken stock.

4. Add chicken, pulled from bones, sausage, tomatoes, and everything else.

5. Let that bad boy cook awhile. When it boils, reduce the heat and let it simmer.

Lewis concludes: "The rule with soup is the longer it sits, the better it gets. Mind it occasionally, stirring to keep anything from burning in the bottom. Fresh bread is always good. Be sure, absolutely sure, to do a little celebration dance after each taste, each seasoning."


  1. Linda8:14 AM

    Sounds really yummy! I love a good soup with some crusty bread and friends to share it with!

    1. Definitely enjoyable; particularly with crusty bread and friends!

  2. Anonymous11:45 AM

    Great perspective about sharing food, and thank you for sharing the recipe!! So glad you could make it there. Go you!

    Love you,

    1. Pam, your gang would love this soup (and there would be plenty for all, plus). And you guys *really* need to read The Wingfeather Saga :) .